Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Keep the swastikas up

This story, out of the hub, is indicative of what we can expect in this newer, less tolerent, age: Barely articulate impulsive spritzes of hate. As Samantha Crossland, a probable target along with the rest of her neighborhood, says, "Some people are saying, 'I can’t believe they didn't even get it right'...But this person is so hung up on [a] symbol of hate they had to do it anyway."

Is it an isolated incident? Perhaps. That seems to depend on your viewpoint. The Southern Poverty Law Center put out a report a couple weeks ago noting 700+ reported events since election day, a number that only seems to grow larger. Meanwhile, rightwing reports debunking selected incidents make the rounds among conservatives. But even if a majority of events are proved to be more experiences of feeling than fact, that makes the incidents no less heinous. If you aren't the target, you don't get to judge what's hateful.

Some folks are making the effort to sort of retake the public images by repurposing them, probably influenced by Berlin graffiti artists, where they have had to deal with this sort of thing for a half century. I undertstand that impulse. No one wants to see that shit and what it suggests about people in or passing through their community. And I certainly wouldn't want it on my garage door.

But here's my antidote. Leave them up. Leave the swastikas and the "Black Lives Don't Matter" and the "Whites/Colored" and the anti-immigrant stuff up. Leave it all where it is. It's painful and it should be painful, like a raw wound. We should see it every day. Moreover, Trump supporters, for whom their personal desire for "something different" trumped the hate his other supporters signaled, should see it daily and be reminded that this is the America they wanted. This is the America they voted for. This is the price for the America they want.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

They don't all go gently into that good night

Tonight I attended the funeral of a patient I'd barely gotten to know before he told me he didn't need my coming around any longer. He went, in the course of less than a year, from 300+ pounds to the less than 90 pounds at which he died.

What made being there tough wasn't that he had told me I wasn't needed--I rarely take things like that personally--but that his death was so agitated. He fought, I'm told, to the last moments, flailing, swinging, muttering, so that his mother compared him to a very old man held under water. But he was less than 40 and the quiet death, I find, rarely appeals to the young.

I don't know whether to admire him or pity him. Personally, dying peacefully is my dream, as I think it is for many others. Alternatively, given his history, if anyone deserved to be pissed off at the lousy cards he was dealt, it was him, and maybe fighting until every last breath is exhausted is the way some should go. I'm uncertain, ultimately, what to make of it. We spoke of it, his family and I, in a mix of awe and sadness, and perhaps that's the best epitaph someone so young can hope for.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Truth Matters

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York senator and ambassador from my young adulthood to whom I might attribute my love for politics, famously asserted, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." That quote has had quite a workout this past year, and if anything the recent election seems to have put the lie to it. Everyone, particularly Donald Trump and his supporters, are apparently entitled to their own facts, as if some objective concept called "truth" doesn't matter.

Let's set aside the questions of whether there is something like an Ultimate Truth or Cosmic Truth; those are both too broad and too big for a consideration of this Little Orange Man. But a few days ago I got into an argument with several co-workers, people who work with medicine and health care, for whom there has to be a down-to-the-bones truth that the body operates this way and these substances have this effect on it and cleaning the limbs this way affect it in this way in order for them to do their jobs and expect good results. They absolutely asserted that, bad as Trump "may be," Hillary Clinton was worse because she ignored the telephone call from the American embassy under attack in Libya.

Simply: Untrue. (Yes, I rely on "notoriously liberal" for information and credentialing because we need to have a final authority to which we can appeal, and while the site isn't perfect, and couldn't be, its fact-checkers try their best to both get at the truth and be objective and are free of the lure of advertisers and friends in high political places. Particularly now, when fake news sites are easy and profitable to create.)

It matters what is true, not only in political decisions but in everything. Medicine and biology is replicable and matters. Climate change theory is replicable and matters. Demographics matters. Donald Trump's lies matter, especially now he has won the election. This matters: Plain and simple, truth matters. Assert the truth in the face of lies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We Will Not Be Silent

I've waited a week to make this post, partly out of inertia and partly out of a desire to get the message right. I am fiercely partisan, there's no getting around it. I believe strongly in the work of progressives and the liberal impulse. Christianity's most meaningful words for me are "What you do to the least of these you do to me." 

I am furious at the outcome of the presidential election. In that, I join a lot of people. I'm among the first to argue that doesn't make us right. There is a reason we don't accept majority rules in our system.

I am furious, but not at a Hillary Clinton loss. I'm not furious at a Republican win. And I'm not furious with Donald Trump. I'm furious that in the Twenty-First Century, Donald Trump ran on a platform of bigotry, misogyny, and anti-immigrant sentiment culminating in a fantasy about a literal wall between two nations (have we learned nothing from East and West Berlin?), and won.

I am furious with the people responsible for this. I am furious with Donald Trump voters and sympathizers.

I am furious that Donald Trump earned enough votes to make him the candidate in the first place. I am furious that what most of us experienced as a vanity campaign, all about him, never about the rest of us, was capable of lying about the career of a veteran politician and winning on that strength. I am furious someone endorsed by numerous white supremacy and anti-Semitic organizations, not a single one of which he disavowed, managed in 2016 to win. I am furious that in contemporary America there are a number of people who have both a genuine and deserved fear of the aftermath of a Donald Trump victory. I am furious that Donald Trump could accuse Latino/as of multiple falsities and yet garnered nearly 30% of their votes. I am furious that many politicians in the Republican Party took the drastic, courageous, and necessary step of publicaly disavowing their candidate and his views, and yet 90% of self-identified Republicans voted for him (and let us not forget the several, like Paul Ryan, Bob Dole, and Ted Cruz, who regaled the public with how poor was the reflection he gave the party, only to cynically pull the lever for him). I am furious that a person who is on record as having little but disdain for women was voted for by nearly half of them. I am furious that for the first time in modern American political history, a candidate threatened to jail his opponent if he won.

Donald Trump may, in time, come to surprise us. Once faced with the enormities of office and the necessity of compromising in order to acheive anything (as he has already learned how, despite his elevation because he is not a career politician, he simply cannot do the simplest things without them), he may become less divisive, less self-satisfied, less inflammatory. He will also then become less liked by his followers, which is always what happens to a president after an election, but seems especially likely in Trump's case. I doubt it, but it is possible.

I don't care. Donald Trump won and he won with the votes of people who, at the very least, did not give a damn how what he said and did could affect their neighbors. That will never, ever sit right with me, and it never should.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

258 candles-6 days

Yes, I know, I won't feed Pedigree to my dogs either. And I know I'm just perpetuating the notion that a commercial maker of substandard kibble really cares about the political atmosphere rather than raking in a few million more shekels from rubes who say, "But look, a dog!" But look, a dog. Political animal though I am, some things are truer than politics. What unites us is more important than what divides us.